We recently became aware of a new(ish) app from the Sunlight Foundation. It is the Congress App and is available for both iOS and Android. We think anyone who is interested in keeping tabs on Congress and who owns a smartphone ought to download this app.
I (Daniel) have the Android version, which is divided into these sections:
- People (Representatives and Senators)
- The Floor
Because of the way that Congress itself chooses to disseminate information the public, bill information and vote information can be delayed. Although it is much easier to have the latest Congressional votes at your fingertips instead of digging to find them.
People is great. It was easy for me to add my Congressional delegation to a tracking list. For each Member of Congress you can do the following:
- Call their office
- Visit their website
- View their voting record
- See their sponsored bills
- View committees they are a part of
- See news from across the internet mentioning your Member of Congress.
As a full time information activist and an on and off political junkie and social justice person, I find this app incredibly helpful. I was also able to put it to immediate use.
In what could be a whole other post, the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office is reporting that the secret negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has this bad news for the Public Domain:
If you use the public domain — which we all do — we’re all going to get stiffed, because there are proposals to lengthen the Berne-mandated terms from life + 50 years, to life + 70, or even life + 100 years.
There’s other bad news for copyright, including bad news for creators. There’s disturbing news on other fronts regarding the TPP, so I urge you to read the whole article.
I read ALA’s blog post right after installing the Congress App. So I used it to visit the websites of my two Senators and House member and send quick e-mails urging them to reject “fast tracking” the TPP and telling them I found ANY further extension of copyright terms unacceptable. I hope you’ll take the same message to your Congress people. You don’t have to use Sunlight’s app, but it does make it easier.
Moving back to the app itself, I wanted to remind you that free apps like these are only possible because Congressional information is publicly available. If Congress decided to go back into paper or only license its digital data to one vendor, we couldn’t have things like this.
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